McLaren split from Honda, switch to Re­nault

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS - FOR­MULA ONE

SIN­GA­PORE: For­mer cham­pi­ons McLaren will swap their Honda en­gines for Re­nault ones at the end of the For­mula One sea­son after call­ing time on a trou­bled three-year part­ner­ship marked by frus­tra­tion and fail­ure.

Honda will stay in For­mula One, re­plac­ing Re­nault as en­gine sup­plier to Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, whose Span­ish driver Car­los Sainz moves to the French team on loan for the 2018 sea­son.

The ma­jor shake-up, an­nounced at the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix Fri­day, ends McLaren and Honda’s dream of recre­at­ing the glory years of the late ’80s and early ’90s when Ayr­ton Senna and Alain Prost were dom­i­nant.

“For a com­bi­na­tion of rea­sons our part­ner­ship has not flour­ished as any of us would have wished,” McLaren ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Zak Brown said in a state­ment.

“It is cer­tainly not for the want of ef­fort on the part of ei­ther Honda or McLaren, but the time has come to move ahead in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.”

Honda Mo­tor Co. Pres­i­dent Takahiro Hachigo ex­pressed re­gret at a move that had be­come an open se­cret, and thanked For­mula One’s own­ers Lib­erty Me­dia and the gov­ern­ing FIA for their part in the deal­mak­ing with Toro Rosso.

“It is un­for­tu­nate that we must part ways with McLaren be­fore ful­fill­ing our am­bi­tions; how­ever, we made the de­ci­sion with a be­lief that this is the best course of ac­tion for each other’s fu­ture,” he said.

Fer­nando Alonso, the dou­ble world cham­pion whose out­bursts at Honda’s short­com­ings have be­come a reg­u­lar fea­ture of race broad­casts, is ex­pected to stay at McLaren. The 36-year-old Spa­niard, who won his world ti­tles with Re­nault in 2005 and 2006, was not men­tioned in the state­ments but has made hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive en­gine a key de­mand.

McLaren and Honda re­vived their part­ner­ship at the start of 2015 amid a burst of op­ti­mism but that bub­ble was swiftly pricked.

Honda has strug­gled to catch up with ri­vals and master the sport’s com­plex turbo-hy­brid en­gine reg­u­la­tions. McLaren are now ninth out of 10 in the con­struc­tors’ stand­ings and have scored only 11 points from 13 races.

The team founded by the late New Zealan­der Bruce McLaren have won eight con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships, 12 driv­ers’ ti­tles and 182 races but are with­out a vic­tory since the end of 2012. Brown said this month that the choice of en­gine part­ners, with Honda contributing more than $100 mil­lion a year to McLaren’s bud­get ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers, was one of the big­gest de­ci­sions the team has had to make.

Re­nault en­gines have pow­ered Red Bull to six wins since the start of the Mercedes-dom­i­nated tur­bo­hy­brid era in 2014, most re­cently with Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo at this year’s Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix.

McLaren will be hop­ing to be up there too next year and Re­nault, who have their own works team, looked for­ward to the chal­lenge.

“This is a strate­gic de­ci­sion,” Re­nault Sport Rac­ing pres­i­dent Jerome Stoll said. “This alliance is not only tech­ni­cal and sporting, but also comes with mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ben­e­fits.

“We know that McLaren will push us hard on track and this com­pe­ti­tion will be to the ben­e­fit of all.”

The split also re­moves Honda from the in­tense and in­creas­ingly em­bar­rass­ing scru­tiny the man­u­fac­turer has en­dured.

“Honda and Toro Rosso will work as one team to strive for progress and a suc­cess­ful fu­ture to­gether,” Hachigo said.

McLaren are sec­ond to last in the con­struc­tors’ stand­ings.

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